October 3, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Charged with emotion after becoming the “first woman of color to hold citywide office,” Councilwoman Letitia James – the former public defender from Brooklyn – launched straight into a progressive, worker-friendly agenda at her public advocate victory party held at the Copacabana on Tuesday night that most assuredly melted the hearts of all those suffering under two decades of Giuliani/Bloomberg. Watch Video
“Despite being outspent, we won tonight,” James said, flanked between Comptroller John Liu and fellow Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Despite the tabloids going to bat for our opponent [State Senator Daniel Squardron], we won tonight. Despite all the rich and one-percenters who supported our opponent, we won tonight.”
The race between Councilwoman James and State Senator Squadron, which was necessitated after both failed to garner 40 percent of the vote in last month’s primary, in fact, wasn’t even close – and appeared to further signal a coming progressive and diversity sea change headed for New York City politics.
“[James’ win] is really important on three grounds,” 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa told LaborPress. “First, we need a public advocate that comes from Brooklyn – who comes from our communities, our neighborhoods – who understands what every working person in the city is going through. Number two, we need a woman with a passion for leadership for those who are less present in city politics and who has a tremendous amount of experience and dedication.”
Finally, the head of the nation’s largest union of property service workers, said that New York City is long overdue in electing a person of color to a high-profile position like public advocate.
“We have to make sure that all of the different sectors of our community are present in citywide government,” Figueroa said.
Councilwoman James enters the November general election without a Republican challenger, and therefore is virtually assured to, in fact, become the “first woman of color elected to citywide office.”
“We’ve known Tish for years, even before she was an elected official,” said Scott Sommer, New York Area director for UAW Region 9A. “I often joke that she sometimes makes the politically wrong decision because it’s the right thing to do. We know that she will be a loud, effective voice for working men and women, for poor people, for seniors, for tenants – New York’s most vulnerable people. She was born to be the public advocate.”
The feisty woman from Brooklyn who officially becomes New York City public advocate following November’s general election – an office that boasts little real power, but does command the bully pulpit, as well as being a potential springboard to the mayoralty – went on to eschew rising rents, racial profiling, low-wage jobs and public schools that have become “a bunch of test prep centers.”
“And no, Mayor Bloomberg, we don’t need anymore billionaires,” Councilwoman James said. “What we need to do is boost working families and create a middle class that is built to last.”